Friday, 26 December 2014

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Carols

Travellers at St Pancras Station being entertained by the melodic voices of a group of scouts singing Christmas carols, all in aid of funding their jamboree in 2015.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Tree

A silver Xmas tree in what definitely feels like autumnal weather.  Possibly the warmest December I can recall since living in this part of the world.

Off this afternoon to find a Xmas tree for my abode.  I bet you've all finished your decorations and shopping.  

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Ted boroughs in

Ted … Ted ... why don’t you tell us about Borough Market (you know you asked right ... you did!!) Do you know how big Borough Market is???  Today there are over 100 traders on a market site that dates back to the 13th century. Well actually, if old records are to be believed there has been a market in the “borough” south of the river since the 11th century, and they have been moved several times – the last one in 1755 for causing traffic congestion!!!

You can get pretty much anything you want food and drink wise from Borough market. You name it and it’s probably here - all kinds of cheese, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, bread, charcuterie, chocolate, cakes, pies, coffee, ethnic cuisine supplies, any alcohol, including english wine (the sparkling is good) and this time of year the specialities and traditional food of Christmas.

I decided I needed a plan for telling you about Borough Market ... over time. I thought I’d focus in on one stall at time and see if they actually talked to me or were off-hand, as they thought I was just a “looker” with a camera. If they were friendly, helpful, and interested, then I would tell you about them. So … today apart from Mrs McLaren who tried (nicely) to force feed me christmas pudding ... we meet the Cartwright Bros, second generation (twitter now even) … I was there a few weeks ago with SWMBO (who is secretly a wine merchant) and she had a long discussion with them about the wonderful Framingham wines from New Zealand that they stocked. She took photos and then tweeted the winemaker (ok so it was 4am in NZ – but I am sure he was up and doing anyway). 

Alas … my trusty iPhone 4 then spat the dummy and I lost all my photos ... so back I went and looked at more of their really interesting collection. I was impressed by a) their helpfulness, b) the variety on offer and c) their approach of supporting small producers.

One such producer is Dà Mhìle distillery in Wales, who forage their ingredients. We tried the gin with seaweed and concurred that it would be the perfect accompaniment to the brininess of freshly shucked oysters. So there’s a tradition buster for you .. an icy cold shot of welsh seaweed gin, or push the boat out, and go for a martini with your christmas eve oysters .. or anytime really.

Still in need of a gin and seafood experience then try Nardin smoked anchovies fillets from Spain .... lurve ... lurve ... 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Heading Home

The first leg of my return back home.  Ted will keep you entertained whilst I'm in flight.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Santa's Sack

Santa and the elves are loading up the sleigh ready for that annual journey around the world.  Those NASA folks could learn a lot from them about efficient time travel.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Play a Merry Tune

There are the carol singers, the brass bands and those same old songs like I saw mummy kissing santa last night.  Which ones drive you crazy and which ones do just love at this time of the year?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ted counts beans

Cacao (cocoa) beans that is .. the little gems that give life to chocolate, the world’s favourite confectionery. We love it so much we spend more than 20 billion dollars every year on chocolate and chocolate products.  The Mayans and the Aztecs had it all pretty much to themselves for a long time. In fact, they considered the beans so valuable that they used them as a currency. Naturally as long as there has been currency there have been counterfeits, and their's were made of terracotta.

Christopher Columbus and then the Spanish Conquistadors whisked the beans back to Spain where they proceeded to make “xocolatl” (bitter water) in the Aztec fashion. They sweetened it up with honey and a few herbs and introduced it into the Austrian royal courts in the early 17th century, where it gained immediate favour, and within 100 years it was widespread throughout Europe.

From that time to this chocolate has seduced human kind and been accorded fabulous powers – it has the ability to make us feel good, fight tooth decay, help prevent heart attacks,  increase IQs, why it even acts as an aphrodisiac apparently.  However, supposedly this only really applies to the 70% cacao plus level of dark chocolate, and not the sugar laden impersonators that inhabit our supermarket shelves.  Sadly "white" chocolate, like common sense, just “isn’t”.

So it was with high hopes of a sensory experience that I headed off to the London chocolate festival, where the purveyors of all things that you can make from chocolate (and quite a number you can’t) were gathered to let us experience and purchase their wares.

I started with a choux pastry filled with chocolate praline crème, accompanied by a Bailey’s Belgium chocolate liqueur. After a few moments of over excitement I calmed down and took in the surroundings.  There were chocolate stalls with chocolates goodies in all shapes and sizes from all over, chocolate baubles for the Christmas tree, chocolate making and tasting classes, and even chocolate art. As if that wasn’t enough there was a Christmas market filled with things that any good chocoholic should have like chocolate moulds, fondue pots, and knives for cutting chocolate. Phew ... Oh I almost forgot to add, chocolate also has life-saving powers. Well it did for Milton Hershey anyway when he had to cancel his trip on the Titanic due to chocolate related business … 
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